The Art of War
|The Art of War|
|Literal meaning||Master Sun's Military Rules|
The Art of War (Chinese: 孫子兵法; pinyin: Sūnzĭ bīngfǎ) is an ancient Chinese military treatise attributed to Sun Tzu, a high-ranking military general, strategist and tactician. The text is composed of 13 chapters, each of which is devoted to one aspect of warfare. It is commonly known to be the definitive work on military strategy and tactics of its time. It has been the most famous and influential of China's Seven Military Classics, and "for the last two thousand years it remained the most important military treatise in Asia, where even the common people knew it by name." It has had an influence on Eastern and Western military thinking, business tactics, legal strategy and beyond.
The book was first translated into the French language in 1772 by French Jesuit Jean Joseph Marie Amiot and a partial translation into English was attempted by British officer Everard Ferguson Calthrop in 1905. The first annotated English language translation was completed and published by Lionel Giles in 1910. Leaders as diverse as Mao Zedong, General Vo Nguyen Giap, General Douglas MacArthur and leaders of Imperial Japan have drawn inspiration from the work.
- 1 Themes
- 2 The 13 chapters
- 3 Chapter summary
- 4 Timeline
- 5 Historical annotations
- 6 Quotations
- 7 Military and intelligence applications
- 8 Application outside the military
- 9 Sources and translations
- 10 See also
- 11 References
- 12 External links
Sun Tzu considered war as a necessary evil that must be avoided whenever possible. The war should be fought swiftly to avoid economic losses: "No long war ever profited any country: 100 victories in 100 battles is simply ridiculous. Anyone who excels in defeating his enemies triumphs before his enemy's threats become real".
Sun Tzu emphasized the importance of positioning in military strategy. The decision to position an army must be based on both objective conditions in the physical environment and the subjective beliefs of other, competitive actors in that environment. He thought that strategy was not planning in the sense of working through an established list, but rather that it requires quick and appropriate responses to changing conditions. Planning works in a controlled environment; but in a changing environment, competing plans collide, creating unexpected situations.
The 13 chapters
The Art of War is divided into 13 chapters (or piān); the collection is referred to as being one zhuàn ("whole" or alternatively "chronicle").
|Chapter||Lionel Giles (1910)||R.L. Wing (1988)||Ralph D. Sawyer (1996)||Chow-Hou Wee (2003)|
|I||Laying Plans||The Calculations||Initial Estimations||Detail Assessment and Planning
|II||Waging War||The Challenge||Waging War||Waging War
|III||Attack by Stratagem||The Plan of Attack||Planning Offensives||Strategic Attack
|IV||Tactical Dispositions||Positioning||Military Disposition||Disposition of the Army
|V||Use of Energy||Directing||Strategic Military Power||Forces
|VI||Weak Points and Strong||Illusion and Reality||Vacuity and Substance||Weaknesses and Strengths
|VII||Maneuvering an Army||Engaging The Force||Military Combat||Military Maneuvers
|VIII||Variation of Tactics||The Nine Variations||Nine Changes||Variations and Adaptability
|IX||The Army on the March||Moving The Force||Maneuvering the Army||Movement and Development of Troops
|X||Classification of Terrain||Situational Positioning||Configurations of Terrain||Terrain
|XI||The Nine Situations||The Nine Situations||Nine Terrains||The Nine Battlegrounds
|XII||Attack by Fire||The Fiery Attack||Incendiary Attacks||Attacking with Fire
|XIII||Use of Spies||The Use of Intelligence||Employing Spies||Intelligence and Espionage
- Detail Assessment and Planning (Chinese: 始計，始计) explores the five fundamental factors (the Way, seasons, terrain, leadership and management) and seven elements that determine the outcomes of military engagements. By thinking, assessing and comparing these points, a commander can calculate his chances of victory. Habitual deviation from these calculations will ensure failure via improper action. The text stresses that war is a very grave matter for the state and must not be commenced without due consideration.
- Waging War (Chinese: 作戰，作战) explains how to understand the economy of warfare and how success requires winning decisive engagements quickly. This section advises that successful military campaigns require limiting the cost of competition and conflict.
- Strategic Attack (Chinese: 謀攻，谋攻) defines the source of strength as unity, not size, and discusses the five factors that are needed to succeed in any war. In order of importance, these critical factors are: Attack, Strategy, Alliances, Army and Cities.
- Disposition of the Army (Chinese: 軍形，军形) explains the importance of defending existing positions until a commander is capable of advancing from those positions in safety. It teaches commanders the importance of recognizing strategic opportunities, and teaches not to create opportunities for the enemy.
- Forces (Chinese: 兵勢，兵势) explains the use of creativity and timing in building an army's momentum.
- Weaknesses and Strengths (Chinese: 虛實，虚实) explains how an army's opportunities come from the openings in the environment caused by the relative weakness of the enemy and how to respond to changes in the fluid battlefield over a given area.
- Military Maneuvers (Chinese: 軍爭，军争) explains the dangers of direct conflict and how to win those confrontations when they are forced upon the commander.
- Variations and Adaptability (Chinese: 九變，九变) focuses on the need for flexibility in an army's responses. It explains how to respond to shifting circumstances successfully.
- Movement and Development of Troops (Chinese: 行軍，行军) describes the different situations in which an army finds itself as it moves through new enemy territories, and how to respond to these situations. Much of this section focuses on evaluating the intentions of others.
- Terrain (Chinese: 地形) looks at the three general areas of resistance (distance, dangers and barriers) and the six types of ground positions that arise from them. Each of these six field positions offer certain advantages and disadvantages.
- The Nine Battlegrounds (Chinese: 九地) describes the nine common situations (or stages) in a campaign, from scattering to deadly, and the specific focus that a commander will need in order to successfully navigate them.
- Attacking with Fire (Chinese: 火攻) explains the general use of weapons and the specific use of the environment as a weapon. This section examines the five targets for attack, the five types of environmental attack and the appropriate responses to such attacks.
- Intelligence and Espionage (Chinese: 用間，用间) focuses on the importance of developing good information sources, and specifies the five types of intelligence sources and how to best manage each of them.
Traditionalist scholars attribute the writings of Sun Tzu to the historical Sun Wu, who is recorded in both the Records of the Grand Historian (Shiji) and the Spring and Autumn Annals as having been active in Wu around the end of the sixth century BCE, beginning in 512 BCE. The traditional interpretation concludes that the text should therefore date from this period, and should directly reflect the tactics and strategies used and created by Sun Wu. The traditionalist approach assumes that only very minor revisions may have occurred shortly after Sun Wu's death, in the early fifth century BCE, as the body of his writings may have needed to be compiled in order to form the complete, modern text.
The textual support for the traditionalist view is that several of the oldest of the Seven Military Classics share a focus on specific literary concepts (such as terrain classifications) which traditionalist scholars assume were created by Sun Tzu. The Art of War also shares several entire phrases in common with the other Military Classics, implying that other texts borrowed from the Art of War, and/or that The Art of War borrowed from other texts. According to traditionalist scholars, the fact that The Art of War was the most widely reproduced and circulated military text of the Warring States period indicates that any textual borrowing between military texts must have been exclusively from The Art of War to other texts and not vice versa. The classical texts which most similarly reflect Sun Tzu's terms and phraseology are the Wei Liaozi and Sun Bin's Art of War.
Skeptics to the traditionalist view within China have abounded since at least the time of the Song dynasty. Some, following Du Mu, accused The Art of War's first commentator, Cao Cao, of butchering the text. The criticisms of Cao Cao were based on a Book of Han bibliographical notation of a work composed of eighty-two sections that was attributed to Sun Tzu. The description of a work by Sun Tzu composed of eighty-two sections contrasts with the description of the Art of War from the Records of the Grand Historian (Shiji), in which the Art of War is described as having thirteen sections (the current number). Others doubted Sun Tzu's historical existence and claimed that the work must be a later forgery. Much of The Art of War's historical condemnation within China has been due to its realistic approach to warcraft: it advocates utilizing spies and deception. The advocacy of dishonest methods contradicted perceived Confucian values, making it a target of Confucian literati throughout later Chinese history. According to later Confucian scholars, Sun Tzu's historical existence was accordingly a late fabrication, unworthy of consideration except by the morally reprehensible.
If the modern text of The Art of War reflects contrasting interpretations of the value in chivalry in warfare, the existence of these differing interpretations within the text supports the theory that the core of The Art of War was created by a figure (for example: the historical Sun Tzu) who existed at a time when chivalry was more highly valued (i.e., the Spring and Autumn period), and that the text was amended by his followers to reflect the realities of warfare in a subsequent, distinctly un-chivalric period (i.e., the Warring States period).
Modern archaeological findings
On April 10, 1972, the Yinqueshan Han Tombs were accidentally unearthed by construction workers in Shandong. Scholars uncovered a nearly complete Western Han Dynasty (206 BCE - 220 CE) copy of The Art of War, known as the Yinqueshan Han Slips, which is almost completely identical to modern editions, lends support that The Art of War had achieved its current form by at least the early Han dynasty, and findings of less-complete copies dated earlier support the view that it existed in roughly its current form by at least the time of the mid-late Warring States. Because the archaeological evidence proves that The Art of War existed in its present form by the early Han dynasty, the Han dynasty record of a work of eighty-two sections attributed to Sun Tzu is assumed by modern historians to be either a mistake, or a lost work combining the existing The Art of War with biographical and dialectical material. Some modern scholars suggest that The Art of War must have existed in thirteen sections before Sun Tzu met the King of Wu, since the king mentions the number thirteen in the Records of the Grand Historian (Shiji) description of their meeting.
Alternative viewpoints of origin
Some modern historians[which?] challenge the traditionalist interpretation of the text's history. Even if the possibility of later revisions is disregarded, the traditionalist interpretation that Sun Tzu created The Art of War himself (ex nihilo), and that all other military scholars must have copied and borrowed from him, disregards the likelihood of any previous formal or literary tradition of tactical studies, despite the historical existence of over 2,000 years of Chinese warfare and tactical development before 500 BCE. Because it is unlikely that Sun Tzu created China's entire body of tactical studies, "basic concepts and common passages seem to argue in favor of a comprehensive military tradition and evolving expertise, rather than creation ex nihilo."
One modern alternative to the traditionalist theory states that The Art of War achieved its current form by the mid-to-late Warring States (the fourth-to-third century BC), centuries after the historical Sun Tzu's death. This interpretation relies on disparities between The Art of War's tactics and the historical conditions of warfare in the late Spring and Autumn period (the late sixth century BC). Examples of warfare described in The Art of War which did not occur until the Warring States period include:
- the mobilization of one thousand chariots and 100,000 soldiers for a single battle
- protracted sieges (cities were small, weakly fortified, economically and strategically unimportant centers in the Spring and Autumn period)
- the existence of military officers as a distinct subclass of nobility
- deference of rulers' right to command armies to these officers
- the advanced and detailed use of spies and unorthodox tactics (never emphasized at all in the Spring and Autumn period)
- the extensive emphasis on infantry speed and mobility, rather than chariot warfare
Because the conditions and tactics advocated in The Art of War are historically anachronistic to the historical Sun Tzu's time, it is possible that The Art of War was created in the mid-to-late Warring States period.
A view that mediates between the traditionalist interpretation that the historical Sun Tzu was the only creator of The Art of War in the Spring and Autumn Period and the opposite view, that The Art of War was created in the mid-late Warring States period centuries after Sun Tzu's death, suggests that the core of the text was created by Sun Tzu and underwent a period of revision before achieving roughly its current form within a century of Sun Tzu's death (in the last half of the fifth-century BCE).
It seems likely that the historical figure (of Sun Tzu) existed, and that he not only served as a strategist and possibly a general, but also composed the core of the book that bears his name. Thereafter, the essential teachings were probably transmitted within the family or a close-knit school of disciples, being improved and revised with the passing decades while gradually gaining wider dissemination.
The view that The Art of War achieved roughly its current form by the late fifth-century BCE is supported by the recovery of the oldest existing fragments of The Art of War and by the analysis of the prose of The Art of War, which is similar to other texts dated more definitively to the late fifth-century BCE (i.e. Mozi), but dissimilar either to earlier (i.e. The Analects) or later (i.e. Xunzi) literature from roughly the same period. This theory accounts both for the historical record attributing The Art of War to Sun Tzu and for the description of tactics anachronistic to Sun Tzu's time within The Art of War.
Not all combat elements in The Art of War are anachronisms. One major missing element from The Art of War is the army's use of cavalry which was generally employed by 307 BCE in China, during the Warring States period but a century after the Spring and Autumn period, thereby validating the traditionalist theory.
Before the bamboo scroll version was discovered by archaeologists in April 1972, a commonly cited version of The Art of War was the Annotation of Sun Tzu's Strategies by Cao Cao, the founder of the Kingdom of Wei. In the preface, he wrote that previous annotations were not focused on the essential ideas.
After the movable type printer was invented, The Art of War (with Cao Cao's annotations) was published in a military textbook along with six other strategy books, collectively known as the Seven Military Classics (武經七書 / 武经七书). As required reading in military textbooks since the Song Dynasty, more than 30 differently annotated versions of these books exist today.
The Book of Sui documented seven books named after Sun Tzu. An annotation by Du Mu also includes Cao Cao's annotation. Li Jing's The Art of War is said to be a revision of Master Sun's strategies. Annotations by Cao Cao, Du Mu and Li Quan were translated into the Tangut language before year 1040. Other annotations cited in official history books include Shen You's (176-204) Sun Tzu's Military Strategy, Jia Xu's Copy of Sun Tzu's Military Strategy, and Cao Cao and Wang Ling's Sun Tzu's Military Strategy.
Verses from the book occur in modern daily Chinese idioms and phrases, such as the last verse of Chapter 3:
So it is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you can win a hundred battles without a single loss.
If you only know yourself, but not your opponent, you may win or may lose.
If you know neither yourself nor your enemy, you will always endanger yourself.
This has been more tersely interpreted and condensed into the Chinese modern proverb:
知己知彼，百戰不殆。 (Zhī jǐ zhī bǐ, bǎi zhàn bù dài.)
If you know both yourself and your enemy, you can win numerous (literally, "a hundred") battles without jeopardy.
Common examples can also be found in English use, such as verse 18 in Chapter 1:
All warfare is based on deception. Hence, when we are able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must appear inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near.
This has been abbreviated to its most basic form and condensed into the English modern proverb:
All warfare is based on deception.
Military and intelligence applications
During the Sengoku era in Japan, a daimyo named Takeda Shingen (1521–1573) is said to have become almost invincible in all battles without relying on guns, because he studied The Art of War. The book even gave him the inspiration for his famous battle standard "Fūrinkazan" (Wind, Forest, Fire and Mountain), meaning fast as the wind, silent as a forest, ferocious as fire and immovable as a mountain.
The translator Samuel B. Griffith offers a chapter on "Sun Tzu and Mao Tse-Tung" where The Art of War is cited as influencing Mao's On Guerrilla Warfare, On the Protracted War and Strategic Problems of China's Revolutionary War, and includes Mao's quote: "We must not belittle the saying in the book of Sun Wu Tzu, the great military expert of ancient China, 'Know your enemy and know yourself and you can fight a thousand battles without disaster."
General Vo Nguyen Giap successfully implemented tactics described in The Art of War during the Battle of Dien Bien Phu ending major French involvement in Indochina and leading to the accords which partitioned Vietnam into North and South. General Vo, later the main PVA military commander in the Vietnam War, was an avid student and practitioner of Sun Tzu’s ideas. America's defeat there, more than any other event, brought Sun Tzu to the attention of leaders of American military theory.
Finnish Field Marshal Mannerheim and general Aksel Airo were avid readers of Art of War. They both read it in French; Airo kept the French translation of the book on his bedside table in his quarters.
The Department of the Army in the United States, through its Command and General Staff College, lists The Art of War as one example of a book that may be kept at a military unit's library.
The Art of War is listed on the Marine Corps Professional Reading Program (formerly known as the Commandant's Reading List). It is recommended reading for all United States Military Intelligence personnel and is required reading for all CIA officers.
According to some authors, the strategy of deception from The Art of War was studied and widely used by the KGB: "I will force the enemy to take our strength for weakness, and our weakness for strength, and thus will turn his strength into weakness". The book is widely cited by KGB officers in charge of disinformation operations in Vladimir Volkoff's novel Le Montage.
Application outside the military
The Art of War has been applied to many fields well outside of the military. Much of the text is about how to fight wars without actually having to do battle: it gives tips on how to outsmart one's opponent so that physical battle is not necessary. As such, it has found application as a training guide for many competitive endeavors that do not involve actual combat.
There are business books applying its lessons to office politics and corporate strategy. Many Japanese companies make the book required reading for their key executives. The book is also popular among Western business management, who have turned to it for inspiration and advice on how to succeed in competitive business situations. It has also been applied to the field of education.
Sources and translations
- Sun Tzu translated and annotated by Lionel Giles (2005). The Art of War by Sun Tzu – Special Edition. El Paso Norte Press. ISBN 0-9760726-9-6.
- Sun Tzu translated and annotated by R. L. Wing (1988). The Art of Strategy. Main Street Books. ISBN 0-385-23784-7.
- Sun Tzu translated and annotated by Ralph D. Sawyer (1994). The Art of War. Barnes & Noble. ISBN 1-56619-297-8.
- Sun Tzu translated and annotated by Chow-Hou Wee (2003). Sun Zi Art of War: An Illustrated Translation with Asian Perspectives and Insights. Pearson Education Asia. ISBN 0-13-100137-X.
- Sun Tzu translated and annotated by Samuel B. Griffith (1963). The Art of War. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-501476-6.
- Sun Tzu translated by John Minford (2002). The Art of War. Viking. ISBN 0-670-03156-9.
- Sun Tzu translated by Thomas Cleary (1991). The Art Of War. Shambhala Publications. ISBN 0-87773-537-9.
- Sun Tzu translated by Victor H. Mair (2007). The Art of War: Sun Zi's Military Methods. Columbia University Press. ISBN 978-0-231-13382-1.
- Sun Tzu edited by James Clavell (1983). The Art of War. Delacorte Press. ISBN 0-385-29216-3.
- Sun-Tzu translated by Roger Ames (1993). The Art of Warfare. Random House. ISBN 0-345-36239-X..
- Sun Tzu translated by the Denma translation group (2001). The Art of War: the Denma translation. Shambhala Publications. ISBN 1-57062-904-8.
- Sun Tzu translated by J.H. Huang (1993). The Art of War: The New Translation. Quill William Morrow. ISBN 0-688-12400-3.
- Sun Tzu translated by Donald G. Krause (1995). The Art of War For Executives. Berkely Publishing Group; Perigee Books. ISBN 0-399-51902-5.
- Sun Tzu translated by Stephen F. Kaufman (1996). The Art of War: The Definitive Interpretation of Sun Tzu's Classic Book of Strategy. Tuttle Publishing. ISBN 0-8048-3080-0.
- Sun Tzu translated by Yuan Shibing (1987). Sun Tzu's Art of War: The Modern Chinese Interpretation. Sterling Publishing Co., Inc. ISBN 0-8069-6638-6.
- Sun Tzu translated and annotated by Thomas Huynh and the Editors of Sonshi.com (2008). The Art of War: Spirituality for Conflict. Skylight Paths Publishing. ISBN 978-1-59473-244-7
- Sun Tzu translated in Hindi by Madhuker Upadhyay (2001). 'Yudhkala'. ISBN 81-7778-041-7
- Sun Tzu (2003). The Art of War plus The Ancient Chinese Revealed. translated by Gary Gagliardi. Hillsborough, Washington: Clearbridge Publishing. ISBN 1-929194-42-0.
- Sun Tzu translated by James Trapp (2012). The Art of War: a New Translation. Chartwell Books. ISBN 9780785829225. OCLC 767566607.
- The Art of War by Niccolò Machiavelli
- The Book of Five Rings (Miyamoto Musashi)
- Epitoma rei militaris of Publius Flavius Vegetius Renatus
- Guerrilla Warfare by Che Guevara
- On Protracted War by Mao Zedong
- On War by Carl von Clausewitz
- Records of the Grand Historian
- Thirty-Six Stratagems
- The Utility of Force by General Sir Rupert Smith
- Seven Pillars of Wisdom by TE Lawrence
- Sawyer, Ralph D. The Seven Military Classics of Ancient China. New York: Basic Books. 2007. p. 149.
- Giles, Lionel The Art of War by Sun Tzu - Special Edition. Special Edition Books. 2007. p. 62.
- Sawyer, Ralph D. The Seven Military Classics of Ancient China. New York: Basic Books. 2007. pp. 149–150.
- Sawyer, Ralph D. The Seven Military Classics of Ancient China. New York: Basic Books. 2007. p. 150.
- Sawyer, Ralph D. The Seven Military Classics of Ancient China. New York: Basic Books. 2007. p. 422.
- 孙子 - 山东文化网
- Sawyer, Ralph D. The Seven Military Classics of Ancient China. New York: Basic Books. 2007. p. 423.
- "Yinqueshan Han Bamboo Slips" (in Chinese). Shandong Provincial Museum. 24 April 2008.
- Jonathan Clements (21 June 2012). The Art of War: A New Translation. Constable & Robinson Ltd. pp. 77–78. ISBN 978-1-78033-131-7.
- Sawyer, Ralph D. The Seven Military Classics of Ancient China. New York: Basic Books. 2007. p. 421.
- Sawyer, Ralph D. The Seven Military Classics of Ancient China. New York: Basic Books. 2007. pp. 150–151.
- Ebrey, The Cambridge Illustrated History of China, 29 30.
- Griffith, Samuel B. The Illustrated Art of War. 2005. Oxford University Press. p. 17, 141-143.
- McCready, Douglas. Learning from Sun Tzu, Military Review, May–June 2003.
- Interview with Dr. William Duiker, Conversation with Sonshi
- McCready, Douglas. Learning from Sun Tzu, Military Review, May–June 2003.
- Forbes, Andrew ; Henley, David (2012). The Illustrated Art of War: Sun Tzu. Chiang Mai: Cognoscenti Books. ASIN: B00B91XX8U
- Army, U. S. (1985). Military History and Professional Development. U. S. Army Command and General Staff College, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas: Combat Studies Institute. 85-CSI-21 85.
- Marine Corps Professional Reading Program
- Yevgenia Albats and Catherine A. Fitzpatrick. The State Within a State: The KGB and Its Hold on Russia--Past, Present, and Future. 1994. ISBN 0-374-52738-5, chapter Who was behind perestroika?
- Michaelson, Gerald. "Sun Tzu: The Art of War for Managers; 50 Strategic Rules." Avon, MA: Adams Media, 2001
- McNeilly, Mark. "Sun Tzu and the Art of Business : Six Strategic Principles for Managers. New York:Oxford University Press, 1996.
- Krause, Donald G. "The Art of War for Executives: Ancient Knowledge for Today's Business Professional." New York: Berkley Publishing Group, 1995.
- Kammerer, Peter. "The Art of Negotiation." South China Morning Post (April 21, 2006) pg. 15
- Jeffrey, D. "A Teacher Diary Study to Apply Ancient Art of War Strategies to Professional Development" in The International Journal of Learning: Common Ground Publishing, USA, 2010. Volume 7, Issue 3, pp. 21–36
- Barnhizer, David. The Warrior Lawyer: Powerful Strategies for Winning Legal Battles Irvington-on-Hudson, NY: Bridge Street Books, 1997.
- Balch, Christopher D., “The Art of War and the Art of Trial Advocacy: Is There Common Ground?” (1991), 42 Mercer L. Rev. 861-873
- Beirne, Martin D. and Scott D. Marrs, The Art of War and Public Relations: Strategies for Successful Litigation 
- Pribetic, Antonin I., "The Trial Warrior: Applying Sun Tzu's The Art of War to Trial Advocacy" April 21, 2007, 
- Solomon, Samuel H., “The Art of War: Pursuing Electronic Evidence as Your Corporate Opportunity” 
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- Media related to Sunzi at Wikimedia Commons
- The Art of War Chinese-English bilingual edition, Chinese Text Project
- The Art of War translated by Lionel Giles (1910)' at Project Gutenberg
- Art of War audio book, public domain solo recording by Moira Fogarty at Internet Archive
- The Art of War, Restored version of Lionel Giles translation: PDF (216 KB))
- The Art of War by Sun Tzu Free ebook: Lionel Giles translation available in pdf, ePub and Kindle formats.
- Sun Tzu France French reference website concerning The Art of War
- Sun Tzu's Art of War at Sonshi
- Sun Tzu and Information Warfare at the Institute for National Strategic Studies of National Defense University